Cover image for The kissing game : a novel
The kissing game : a novel
Physical Description:
311 pages ; 21 cm.
Rena Jackson is a diehard romantic, and she's had her eye on Axel Heller for a while. He's got the tall-brooding-and-handsome thing down pat, but he guards his heart well, and Rena is tired of waiting for him to notice her. With Valentine's Day just around the corner, she decides it's time to forget about Axel and find her own Mr. Right. But that's when Axel makes her a bet that involves the hottest kiss she's ever had. --


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"Sexy, sweet, and thoroughly satisfying."--LAUREN LAYNE, New York Timesbestselling author

She's one kiss away from finding Mr. Right!

Rena Jackson is ready. She's worked her tail off to open up her own hair salon, and she's almost ready to quit her job at the dive bar. Rena's also a diehard romantic, and she's hadher eye on Axel Heller for a while. He's got that tall-brooding-and-handsome thing going big-time. Problem is, he's got that buttoned-up Germanic ice man thing going as well. With Valentine's Day just around the corner, Rena's about ready to give up on Axel and find some other Mr. Right.

At six foot six, Axel knows he intimidates most people. He's been crushing on the gorgeous waitress for months. But the muscled mechanic is no romantic, and his heart is buriedso deep, he has no idea how to show Rena what he feels. He knows he's way out of his depth and she's slipping away. So, he makes one crazy, desperate play...

"I bet you a kiss you can't resist me."
Game on.

Praise for New York Times and USA Today bestseller Marie Harte:
"Blends humor, heart, and heat to deliver a top of the charts performance."--Night Owl Romance, 5/5 Stars, Top Pick! for Zero to Sixty
"A blazing hot, emotionally intense love story...from an author on the rise."--Kirkus Reviewsfor A Sure Thing
"Funny, addicting, and full of hot sex scenes."--Booklistfor How to Handle a Heartbreaker
"Another exceptionally red-hot romance by Marie Harte with a strong yet sweet hero!"--Fresh Fictionfor Just the Thing

Author Notes

Caffeine addict, boy referee, and romance aficionado, New York Times and USA Today bestseller Marie Harte is a confessed bibliophile and devotee of action movies. Whether biking around town, hiking, or hanging at the local tea shop, she's constantly plotting to give everyone a happily ever after. Visit and fall in love.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Harte (Satisfaction Delivered) takes on more than she can chew with this entertaining love story that falls short of its ambitions. Bartender Rena Jackson and bar patron Axel Heller have been circling each other for almost a year. Axel, a white, German-American mechanic with a temper, has been too afraid of hurting Rena to ask her out. Black, hopeless romantic Rena, who is gearing up to quit her job and realize her dream of opening a hair salon, plans on leaving her crush on Axel behind her. With Valentine's Day fast approaching, Axel needs to learn to express his feelings and convince Rena to give him a shot. Harte loads this relatively simple premise with extraneous romance tropes--hunky firefighters, abundant miscommunication--while attempting to grapple with heavy topics including the challenges particular to interracial couples as Axel and Rena start dating and the racism Rena faces in her daily life, not to mention myriad other topics--homophobia, gender roles, mental health issues--that feature in the many subplots. None of these meaty themes are given the space to develop, resulting in a bloated plot and complex but underexplored characters. The central love story is sweet, but it gets lost in the noise. Agent: Nicole Resciniti, the Seymour Agency. (Feb.)

Kirkus Review

A laconic auto-body shop owner hopes to woo a longtime crush, but he has to overcome his past trauma to convince her they belong together.Rena Jackson has started her own hair salon in Seattle and wants her personal life to rev up, too, but she has almost given up on Axel Heller's making a move. Though she finds the German transplant attractive, she worries that he is commitment-phobic and not ready for true intimacy. With both their upbringings shadowing them (his involves domestic violence and hers a single mother who has looked for love too often), can two strong, wary people become vulnerable to love? Harte (Delivered With a Kiss, 2019, etc.) provides readers with passages about Axel's painful memories and his fear of being a physical threat to a woman. This is a useful counter to some novels' tendency to romanticize the threat of male power. But the limited, alternating perspective leaves Rena in the dark for much longer than the reader, with the result that her complaints about Axel's attachment style edge her into unlikable territory. The novel is threaded together by Axel's awkward (albeit funny) attempts to court Rena with gifts and other gestures but doesn't allow her similar space to show her personality and get us to root for the couple. The quick references to, and scenes with, numerous peripheral characters bog down the romance arc further. The handling of the white supremacists who have been threatening Rena, who's African American, is a broad-stroke attempt to acknowledge racism but lacks nuance, as does a scene involving homophobia. While the novel's title and cover allude to recent successes like The Kiss Quotient and The Hating Game, it lacks the former's thematic firm-footedness and the latter's tonal mastery of comedy and emotion.Starts out promising but never quite gets out of first gear. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

Rena Jackson loves romance novels. She's sick of waiting around for her happily ever after and decides to try her hand at dating for the first time in years. Axel Heller has been falling for Rena since he first saw her, but he knows he's not good enough for her, and he's sure he would just mess it up anyway. But with Valentine's Day coming up, he gets up the nerve to make her a deal: if she wants more after one kiss, then he wins one date with her. Then, somehow, one date becomes two, then three. Harte (A Sure Thing) delivers an adorable and steamy romantic comedy just in time for Valentine's Day. Axel is a dreamy modern-day Viking whom readers will love, and Rena's spunk and sass will have the audience cheering for their happy ever after. VERDICT A first-tier purchase for all collections.--Amanda Toth, Lane Libs., Hamilton, OH